Ben 10 Ultimate Alien: Volume 4 (DVD)

I wanted to join the Forever Knights, but I just wasn’t “forever” enough.

The batch of episodes on this two-disc set is the conclusion of the second season of Ben 10 Ultimate Alien, which was preceded by four seasons of Ben 10 and three seasons of Ben 10 Alien Force. After all this time, the show’s creators are not resting, but continuing to push themselves to take the series in new directions.

Teenage Ben Tennyson, (Yuri Lowenthal, Naruto) wields the Ultimatrix, a device that allows him to transform into a heck of a lot more than ten super-powered aliens. With his energy-manipulating cousin Gwen (Ashley Johnson, Phenom) and his metal-absorbing friend Kevin (Greg Cipes, Teen Titans), Ben fights to keep the Earth safe from evil aliens, and various other threats.

This episode list has been catalogued on Primus:

• “Moonstruck”
It’s a flashback to the 1960s, to see how aliens first came to the Earth, and how a young Max Tennyson (Paul Eiding, God of War), Ben and Gwen’s uncle, first found love.

• “Prisoner 775 is Missing”
Max joins Ben and company to a visit to Area 51, where alien craziness is afoot.

• “Simian Says”
The DNAgents return, attacking an alien planet. When our heroes investigate, they are reunited with the mysterious Eunice (Molly Quinn, Castle).

• “Greetings from Techadon”
Someone has put a hit out on Ben, sending a series of increasingly hard-to-destroy robots after him. The only way to stop them is to learn who put out the hit.

• “The Purge”
Sir George (Peter Renaday, Defenders of the Earth), the immortal leader of the Forever Knights, returns and announces that the knights must come out of hiding and rid the Earth of all aliens. This includes Ben and his Ultimatrix.

• “The Flame Keepers Circle”
A spiritual charity organization takes an interest in Ben’s girlfriend Julie, just as Ben discovers an old enemy is involved, with less than charitable plans.

• “Double or Nothing”
Someone is taking advantage of Ben’s celebrity status with an unauthorized “Ben 10 Live” show. Behind the scenes, the show is run by a few familiar faces.

• “The Perfect Girlfriend”
Instead of traveling overseas to go to an important tennis tournament, Julie decides to stay, just to be with Ben. As her behavior gets more and more strange, Gwen and Kevin fear something’s not right with her.

• “Ultimate Sacrifice”
The ultimate forms of Ben’s aliens start acting out on their own, instead of being controlled by Ben. They’ve developed their own identities, and they want out of the Ultimatrix. There’s no way to do that, though, without killing Ben.

• “The Mother of All Vreedles”
Alien repo men the Vreedle brothers are back, and this time they’ve brought their mother with them. They might be goofs, but dear old mom is more dangerous than she looks, threatening all life on Earth.

• “The Widening Gyre”
Conspiracies are abound as Ben and his friends investigate strange occurrences on a mass of pollution located in the center of the ocean.

• “A Knight to Remember”
The Forever Knights and the Flame Keepers Circle clash over an alien life form in the Circle’s possession. Who is this alien, what does it want, and are there other forces at play? That’s what Ben must determine as he finds himself in the middle of the conflict.

A good portion of time in these episodes is spent exploring the overall “world” of Ben 10. Several episodes take various side corners or elements that had only been explored lightly and give them more depth. An entire episode goes by without hardly any appearance by the three main characters so we can get a glimpse of how the show’s “aliens living in secret on Earth” thing began. Ben’s twin Albedo makes a return, and now there’s a tragic, emotionally-tortured element to his character. Ben’s relationship with Julia takes a few more twists, as do the flirtations with the two other ladies in Ben’s life, Eunice and Elena. (Three girls at once? Ben, you man-slut!)

The biggest example of the show opening up its lesser-known elements is the Forever Knights. Throughout the whole series, they’ve been side villains—someone for Ben to beat up when taking a break from the main story arc. Now, though, they’ve finally graduated to “big bad” status. Their shtick is that they look and talk like old-timey medieval knights, but they use super-advanced tech to fight aliens, which they say their ancestors believed were dragons. The “knight versus dragon” theme is laid on thick in these episodes, when the Knights are given a face with their leader, Sir George. On the other side of the battle is the Flame Keepers Circle, a charitable group secretly made up of alien-worshipping weirdoes (and you thought only South Park could get away with parodying Scientologists). It’s not as emotionally involving as Kevin’s descent into madness earlier in the series, and it’s not as hugely epic as the final battle against the Highbreed in Ben 10 Alien Force, but the main arc on this set is nonetheless interesting in that we get to know the Forever Knights better than we ever have.

The emphasis is on exploring the world, so the character development isn’t as rich as we’ve seen in previous releases. The question is raised whether Ben truly cares or if he takes nothing seriously, but this has been dealt with in the past. Beyond that, there’s not that much development for the three mains. To be fair, this release combined with Ben 10 Ultimate Alien: Volume 3 make up the entire second season, and that release had a number of character-based episodes, so things balance nicely when looked at as a whole.

As usual, the action is a big draw of the series, and with so many different kinds of aliens to play with, the fighting and explosions never feel repetitive. Some standouts are a few times when Terraspin really cuts loose with his wind powers, or when several Ultimatrix aliens fight each other at once in “Ultimate Sacrifice.” A different take on an action scene is in “Double or Nothing,” when Ben is up against three enemies far weaker than him. Although one-sided in our hero’s favor, the fight is still nicely staged and executed. It looks cool and keeps you guessing at what the bad guys will throw at Ben next. Along with action, another key to the show’s success is its humor, which is again in full force. When the show does an environmental-themed episode in “The Widening Gyre,” Kevin stops to recall how TV cartoons always do shows like that, which makes the whole thing more humorous and less preachy.

As usual, the show shines on DVD, with bright, vivid colors, and clean, fluid animation. The sound is as good as its been on previous releases, clear and booming. Another text “Alien Database” feature is the only extra.

• Two new Ultimatrix aliens, Fasttrack and Eatle, have their debuts, but are only on screen for a few seconds each. Poor Eatle doesn’t do anything except get punched. In the past, I’ve argued that this show is more than just a big toy commercial, but when I see stuff like this, it’s harder to make that argument.
• The Vreedle brothers are OK for some comic relief, but basing an entire episode on them is stretching things. They’re better off as supporting characters, not the stars.
• Never seen anything having to do with Ben 10? You’ll be lost. There’s nothing to get newbies caught up to speed. Even a fan like me had to stop and think, “Wait, which guy was that again?”

The franchise keeps plugging along with Ben 10 Ultimate Alien: Volume 4. The show’s creators have taken the time to open up the world they’ve created and show us new aspects of it, offering a lot of payoff and fun for fans.

The Verdict

Forever not guilty.

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